The Google Book Fiasco

I don’t understand all of the furore about Google’s plans to digitise out-of-print books and their settlement with authors to allow them to proceed.  A legal suit started in 2005 halted progress but a settlement was reached in October 2008 and authors have until today to opt out of the agreement if they so wish.  Opposition seems to come from a number of quarters.  The Open Book Alliance is a vocal opponent, though it includes Yahoo! (a Google competitor), Microsoft (a Google competitor, who abandoned their own book-scanning project) and Amazon (who are currently trying to lock everyone in to their proprietary format on the Kindle, their e-Book reader).  The main argument seems to be:

“…a digital library controlled by a single company and small group of publishers would inevitably lead to higher prices and subpar services for consumers, libraries, scholars and students.”

According to Peter Brantley of the Open Book Alliance.

A worthy concern, this deal allows Google to scan copyright books and show up to 20% of each book in a preview mode as well as making a digital version available for sale.  They can display ads on search/preview pages and will share profits from the ads and sales with authors.  What this is not, is an exclusive deal!  There’s nothing stopping Amazon, the Open Book Alliance or anyone else scanning these books and striking their own deal.  At the moment this isn’t available at all, by anyone, and no one, as far as I can see, is scanning books to make them available (there are some scanning projects, such as that of the Internet Archive, they’re only doing public domain books).  So aside from new books, which invariably have electronic versions available because the market has come into existence, older books are left on the shelf.

So, stop trying to halt Google, they’re not proposing a monopoly, just start your own project instead!  There’s nothing to stop competition, Google just signed a deal to cover it’s existing copyright violations and allow it to make these books available en-masse.

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